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The Gaza frontier fell quiet by evening and Israel and Hamas appeared to be weighing carefully their next moves. Relative calm for four months has enabled Palestinians in Gaza to rebuild and Israelis near the border to live without sirens and rockets.
Two rockets fired from the Gaza Strip struck southern Israel in a morning attack on Wednesday, causing no casualties, the Israeli military said. Hours earlier, its planes had targeted “two extensive terror sites” in the north of the territory.
Israel launched the air strike after three rockets landed on Tuesday. An al Qaeda-linked group, Magles Shoura al-Mujahadeen, claimed responsibility for the attacks on both days.
Tuesday was the third time since the November truce that rockets from Gaza struck southern Israel. But with a new government and defence minister in place after weeks of coalition-building since a January election, Israel seems keen to show resolve, putting the onus on Hamas to curb militants.
“(Israel’s armed forces) decided to attack overnight in order to signal to Hamas that we will not suffer any strike on the south. And any shooting will meet a response, in order to restore quiet for the south soon,” Brigadier-General Yoav Mordechai, the chief military spokesman, said on Army Radio.
“I assess that Hamas has no interest in seeing the situation deteriorate,” he said. “Our goal is to maintain the quiet.”
Commenting on the violence in Gaza, Richard Serry, the U.N. special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, said it was of “paramount importance to refrain from violence.”
He said in a statement that renewed violations of the ceasefire threatened to unravel Egyptian-brokered understandings that included an easing of Israel’s blockade on the enclave.
Egypt mediated the November truce after fighting in which some 170 Palestinians and six Israelis were killed. Israel had launched that Gaza offensive, as it did a bigger campaign in 2008-09, with the declared aim of ending rocket fire.
Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip from Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah movement in 2007 after winning an election a year earlier. Palestinians want to establish a state in the enclave along with the West Bank and East Jerusalem, territories Israel captured in a 1967 war.